Precision. Singular focus.   That is the drive at the Brunello wine estate of La Fiorita.  In a time where most wineries in Montalcino produce, seemingly at a minimum,  a Rosso di Montalcino and some form of IGT,  La Fiorita remains steady with its production of Brunello and Brunello alone. 
 
This past January, I had the pleasure of meeting winery owner Natalie Oliveros at Benvenuto Brunello and we began discussing her Calabrian roots and her dream of making her own wine.  As a little girl, she crushed the grapes in her father’s basement for his homemade wine.  Time and technology have been kind to Oliveros and in 2011, she purchased the La Fiorita Estate in partnership with winemaker Roberto Cipresso.



~ One of La Fiorita’s two estate vineyards:  Pian Bassolino ~
 
La Fiorita’s story begins in 1992 when Roberto Cipresso harvested a tiny 1/2 hectare vineyard in Castelnuovo dell’Abate that yielded a mere 1,000 bottles of Brunello.  The famed Enoteca Pinchiorri in Florence bought the entire production of the estate for their Ristorante.  Slowly, as new vineyard plantings came online, production has increased to about 25,000 bottles. 

Selected Tastings

Over the past few weeks, we were able to sample some of the fine Brunello from this estate

2006 Brunello:  This is a dark garnet color with just a faint fade to violet at the rim.  We let this sit a full 60 minutes in the decanter after removing a fine silt like sediment.  The time seems to have helped the wine because the aromatics were very expressive.  Crushed red fruits are joined by freshly shredded flowers, a slight hint of espresso, rich tobacco and exotic spices.  Wonderful to smell.  On the palate, the wine is slightly more austere than I expected given the profile of the nose.  There is a large core of ripe berry fruit that is joined with smoke, leather and a fine sense of minerality.  This still needs some time in this classic vintage but I think in two or three years time, this will blossom.  Tannins clamp down on the finish.  Served with grilled NY Strips.  91 points, about $36. 



~ The 2006 sports the old label.  The estate made a good decision with their re-design as this motif is difficult to read ~

Next up was the 2006 Brunello Riserva.  Served alongside Osso Bucco,  this wine was perhaps more expressive than the 2006 estate Brunello and that surprised me a little.  Darker black in the glass and decanter, the fruit aromas are intense and focused with fennel, tobacco and worn leather combining nicely.  Rich and powerful on the palate, everything is dialed up a notch here.  There’s a full bodied, viscous mouthfeel that is sensual, sexy.  Loads of ripe tannins still assert themselves on the finish but this is outstanding and very much like I remember it at Benvenuto Brunello. Wow.  95 points.  About $90.  Disclosure:  This bottle was an importer provided sample.



~ The intense 2006 Riserva sports the new label ~

Finally, we tasted the 2007 Brunello.  This is a deep ruby color and doesn’t have the concentration of color that the 2006s exhibit.  However, the nose is spicy and exotic with bright cherry, fresh meat, smoke and spices mingling nicely.  Wonderfully ripe and long on the palate, this has lots of pure, juicy, ripe primary red fruit to which fresh fennel and sweet pipe tobacco are added.  Peppery spice livens up the finish where silky tannins and acidity remain balanced.  This is one of the best 2007’s I’ve had.  Really wonderful.  93 points.  About $36  Disclosure:  This bottle was an importer provided sample.



~ The 2007 also sports the new label ~

Discussion with Owner Natalie Oliveros & Winemaker Roberto Cipresso




~ Owner Natalie Oliveros in Poggio al Sole ~



~ Winemaker Roberto Cipresso ~
 
Recently I had the chance to sit down with the owner and winemaker of La Fiorita and discuss the pair’s philosophy and the direction of the winery.  La Fiorita is a baby by Italian winemaking standards, but despite that, the wines already show a profound sense of richness and finesse. Production is slowly increasing and as you’ll see, the new changes afoot at La Fiorita promise exciting wines in the future.

_________________________________________________________________________

Thank you both for being with me today.  Let’s get started. 
 
Giovanni, il nostro piacere, grazie.
 
It’s noteworthy that La Fiorita only produces Brunello. Most estates produce a Rosso and some sort of IGT. Why the focus solely on Brunello?
 
Our major concern is that we want to process grapes only from our own vineyards to be adherent to our philosophy and express their terroir. We don’t have enough vineyard space to produce  a Rosso di Montalcino but we do produce an IGT  Toscana wine in very small quantity from purchased grapes.  However,  in this case the target is the price to quality ratio.  The IGT is not an expensive wine, but rather for easy accessibility.  But for our Brunello, we only wish to use estate grapes.
 
~ Sangiovese Grosso for Brunello during veraison at La Fiorita ~
 
I see, ok.  So the current estate comprises two vineyards: Poggio al Sole and Pian Bossolino, both of which have differing aspects. Can you describe the general characteristics they each lend to the fruit they bear? 
 
Poggio al Sole lends juice and extraction, softness, low acidity, and a spicy aromatic make up.  Pian Bossolino instead lends pronounced acidity, firm tannins, aristocratic elegance,  rich concentration and high aromatic complexity.

So in essence, differing but complimentary aspects which are blended for a more harmonius end product.  




That’s correct, the sum of our terroir.

 
It’s interesting that you blend fruit from two vineyards that have very different terroir.  When I was recently in Montalcino there was lots of debate about sub-dividing the Brunello DOCG into separate zones. What is La Fiorita’s opinion on this?
 
We make single vineyard wines in the best vintages; we blend the fruit when we believe the final result will be more significant than the single vineyard wine. We support “zonazione” (subzones) because that is the only way for the average Brunello consumer to make it’s way through all the Brunello available on the market and understand the price and quality differences between the wines. 
 

But don’t you think that could ultimately lead to more confusion on the part of the consumer?

Of course that’s possible.  But we prefer to have more information available to those that want it. Our terroir is important and we like to highlight that fact.



~ Manicured vineyards in Poggio al Sole ~

You are developing a new vineyard called Podere Giardinello. When will that be in production?
 
Full production will not be achieved until 2018, but there will be some usage before then.
 
You’ve stated that  “Our philosophy is to exalt the expression of our estates’ terroir” – this seems to indicate that you believe great wines are made by the vineyard, yes?   If so, what is the role of the winemaker?  Roberto, are you merely a custodian of nature?

Yes, it’s true. To make a great wine the grapes must be authentic and consistent with the oenological goal. They must be reflective of their terroir.  Techniques and technologies should not compromise their personality. The role of the winemaker isn’t simply to be a custodian, but to exalt the characteristics of the different cru through appropriate practices. We want people to be able to tell where our wines were grown. We don’t want to cover that with excessive handling or wood application.

Roberto, your bio is impressive indeed.  I note that you began your career at Soldera and Poggio Antico. Those are two very different estates with vastly differing philosophies. What did you learn from each that you rely on today?

Good question Giovanni! As you know, G. Soldera is not the easiest person to work for. He is strict in the sense that he has a clear vision and a very coherent mission. Those are qualities I remember  from Soldera. From Poggio Antico I took more the sense of modern techniques and operations, improvements in the operations both in the cellar and the vineyard.  
 



~ Aerial view of the Poggio al Sole Estate ~
 
 
In 2000, Roberto created a special cuvee for the Pope’s Jubilee Celebration. How did that recognition feel? What was the wine like?
It was a great opportunity and I worked at it with great respect, thanks to my Christian education. I mixed white grapes usually used for drying and was able to source them from the most prestigious lands of Italy. The result was a Vin Santo wine that was authoritative and original, but at the same time the synthesis of our country. It was an unique edition, just for that event.
 
That’s interesting. I just presumed it would have been a Brunello, but what other wine than the “Wine of Saints” for the Pope, eh? 
 
Precisely….
 
So what’s next for La Fiorita? What should fans of the winery look forward to in the future?

The arrival of new members in the company’s team opened a new chapter for us. We are making significant progress toward improving the quality of our wines. The first one is the new vineyard called Il Giardinello. It will be in production in two years and we have great expectations for it. It’s the third expression of terroir in the territory of Montalcino and we are sure it will enrich our wines.
 
 
Alright, it is definitely something to look forward to.  Thank you both so much and we’ll chat again soon!

Grazie a lei, Giovanni.

You can learn more about La Fiorita at www.lafiorita.com





 

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